Last fall at Hudson Stage, “Rabbit Hole” starred the son of New Rochelle actress Frances Sternhagen of “Sex and the City” fame.
This fall, “Salvation” at the Briarcliff theater also stars a Sternhagen son.
“Salvation” is James McLindon’s black comedy about a lifelong criminal’s appointment with death — and his final confession.
There are twists and turns and revelations aplenty in McLindon’s script, which marks its world premiere with this production, directed by Giovanna Sardelli.
“It’s hard to tell anyone the story,” Carlin says. “I have to rethink and go ‘I can’t go that far.’”
Without giving too much away, Carlin’s character, Jack, is a criminal whose world is reduced to an uneasy time in an easy chair.
He shares his home with his son, Bartholomew, whom he calls “Barty.”
“Anything Barty does is anti-Jack,” Carlin says. “If Jack’s Catholic, Barty tries to find something that’s as far from that as possible.”
There’s also a priest and a shadowy fourth character whose story is revealed over the course of the action.
“Salvation” is about fathers and sons, religion and forgiveness.
Jack recalls his second-grade catechism, that even an evildoer can get into Heaven if he makes a heartfelt deathbed confession.
He not only recalls it; he’s counting on it.
Working alongside the playwright on a world premiere means changes.
“It’s exciting and challenging,” Carlin says with mock, gee-whiz over-enthusiasm.
McLindon has “basically streamlined a lot of the exposition,” he says. “It’s part of the process.”
Sardelli — who directed Carlin a few years back in a play called “Apple Cove” — originally had him read the part of the priest. Before long, though, he was offered Jack, a stubborn Boston Irishman.
“Gio is open to anything,” Carlin says.
Jack is confined to a Barcalounger which serves as an arsenal of sorts.
That meant Carlin had to work with fight choreographer Rick Sordelet to learn how to load and clean weapons to the point where it looks like he has been doing it his whole life.
“I’m cleaning guns and I have to learn how to snap back the revolver with panache, while saying all these lines,” he says.
It gets Carlin to thinking about an old rule in theater: If you show a gun, you have to use it.
“But what if you show four? If you show four, it’s proportional. If you show one gun, it has to be used. If you show two, one still has to be used. But if you show four at least two have to be used. It’s Peckinpah’s Law,” he jokes, alluding to Sam Peckinpah, the filmmaker whose specialty was slow-motion, bloody gun battles.
Guns spill blood and Carlin says Sordelet has seen to that detail, too.
“There’s a lot of red around,” he says.
Carlin says McLindon intended “Salvation” to be a different sort of play, one based on his own experience with his father’s death.
“He told us he meant to write a serious drama, but it kept changing into this wackiness. He just let it go and this is what came out.”
While a play with gunplay might seem unlikely to produce laughs, Carlin says there’s comedy in this dark comedy.
“A couple of times are a bit chilling, but it’s very funny and by the end, it can be pretty moving. Laughter in a play kind of tricks you. You’re laughing and then, all of a sudden, you’re really moved.”
“Salvation” previews Oct. 29, opens Oct. 30 for a run through Nov. 13. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Oct. 31, Nov. 7 and 13. Woodward Hall Theatre at Pace University, 235 Elm Road, Briarcliff Manor. $30; $25 for students and seniors. 877-238-5596 or 914-271-2811. Go to the Hudson Stage website.